August 2010

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Good breathing is like going to the toilet, if you don’t aim you miss, but then you have to let go in order to reach your goal!

photo 12861 201002231 150x150 Breathing Heartfully what?

Golden Gate Bridge photo by Paul Martin Elridge

After I visiting my medical intuitive (see my previous blog), I completed the first Trainers Training in NLP, in White Oaks in Maryland. I eventually went back to California and continued to work as a psych nurse, on the adult, adolescent and pediatric units and sometimes on the chemical dependency unit. As  a per Diem nursing staff at the hospital I was available to help and assist for Stens Corporation a company that specialized in biofeedback instruments and training locally mostly in the San Francisco Bay area and nationally as well ( Being certified by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA) allowed me the freedom to help, assist and coach in workshops which gave me the opportunity to develop an experiential and clinical knowledge of biofeedback over a number of years. What got me so interested in Biofeedback was that people could teach themselves to manage their involuntary or autonomic nervous system, I was encouraged by that as an alternative to allopathic medicine. Needless to say nursing and biofeedback seem to fit each other like hand and glove, and a 5 day workshop is not enough to really impart the breath and depth of the biofeedback field EEG, EMG, HRV etc…

I also pursued further studies up  in Complexity theory with Alder Fuller Ph.d in Eugene Oregon which lead me hopefully to a better understanding of how feedback functions in nature. I also had the opportunity to spent time at The Institute for  the Study of Consciousness in Berkeley with Arthur Young (, the developer of the Bell Helicopter, to study his Theory of Process there I met Bob Whitehouse Ed.D…

photo 19469 201008044 300x199 Breathing Heartfully what?

Photographer: Evgeni Dinev

Well, I knew back then that breathing was pretty important, in the process of biofeedback. At that time we would put on respiratory belts and have people breathing in certain patterns at certain rates in certain locations of the body and bring that to their awareness. This seemed maybe a little too mechanical but there are people out there with pretty severe perceptual deficits, who needed to get back in touch with their bodies. We did do the job as to how and where one should breathe except for one thing;  teach the regulation of appropriate depth because we didn’t have the right tools to evaluate and there were many misperceptions. Depth of breathing would later on bring me to look at capnometry which would allow a person to measure the carbon dioxide at the end of the breath. Capnometry was not being taught at the time. And because of a disconnect in what I was experiencing namely, that while I was practicing HRV biofeedback, I was getting anxious, less internally coherent, and slightly more agitated, and this went on for few years in my personal practice. The introduction to capnometric feedback  became an essential aspect on how to resolve and my internal dissonance that I wasn’t getting the results from my HRV practice I thought I should be getting even though I was coaching, practicing and experiencing  HRV according to the expert recommendations. How was it possible that I wasn’t necessarily feeling better, if anything sometimes more anxious, my blood pressure was going up as I was having peripheral vasoconstriction (constriction of the peripheral bloods vessels). The HRV was supposed to help regulate those signs and symptoms I was having. I could synchronize my heart with the breath and be in”good phase angle” meaning that my breath and heart rhythm where in synchrony. Later I was to find out that this may be a breathing artifact and it didn’t have much do with my autonomic nervous system as represented by the software. We will get talking about that later with my business partner  Bob Whitehouse Ed.D, see our website: ( is suggesting that if we don’t apply some critical thinking in this area we may end up with artifacts that are passing as off as good autonomic balance.  I could also produce “good amplitude” which reflects the difference in the number of heart beats at maximum beats per minute and at minimum and therefore, supposedly regulate the autonomic nervous system. However as a practice on the instrument my amplitude would decrease. I had at least for a while “good form” which reflects the matching synchronization of the acceleration and deceleration of the heart beats when I stopped training myself.

photo 6617 20090531 150x150 Breathing Heartfully what?

Image: Kane Gledhill

In comes Ira Rosenberg MA, to teach a weekend workshop in HRV, who actually helped me put myself into tail spin for understanding a component of HRV. He talked about the heart having its own rhythms and that it handled over 4000 different variables. He felt that since there were so many variables that the HRV had to be reeducated or learnt almost every day. He also said that  if you map or model the heart you could map on a surface of torus which brings me back to some of the ideas of Arthur Young whom I previously mentioned. When HRV was initially taught, it was thought that if one breathed around 6 breaths minutes, one could increase HRV. As most nurses would know, this breathing rate for adults this pretty slow but still adequate.  The breath is both under conscious volition, and unconscious learning and processing (operant and classical conditioning). It became more obvious to me that one could entrain the heart around 6 breaths/min and then focus on the heart so that if one had enough discrimination to feel the acceleration and deceleration of the heart beat, one could switch from breathing the heart to having our heart breathe us, the beginning of “Breathing Heartfully”. When the heart dictates its own rhythm and shapes the breathing perhaps it is here we have true feedback, in terms of biofeedback. By decoupling (the phase angle) of the breath from the heart wave one could perhaps see, hear, or feel the heart wave and if it wasn’t influenced by the breath, then we may have a criterion that we have the heart wave. Eventually, we could sensitize ourselves to the acceleration and deceleration of the heart beats by taking or feeling our pulse or putting ear plugs in so you hear your heart beating or even listening through a stethoscope. So here is the caveat: if the carbon dioxide levels in the blood are adequate, then training the HRV should reflect good blood perfusion and pretty good cellular respiration and autonomic regulation (sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems balance). As the literature would suggest HRV is one of the best health indicators.(there are 1000′s of references for that: Gervitz, Lehrer, HeartMath…etc)

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Breathe Deeply?

8 breathing2 150x150 Breathe Deeply?

Is it healthy?

Why was I so often drowsy when doing the deep breathing that I had been taught in meditation, yoga, and biofeedback? I wondered this for over 3o years.  I didn’t find out why until I measured my ETCO₂ (my breathing chemistry) with a CapnoTrainer while breathing deeply. Wow, was I surprised when I saw that my CO₂  significantly dropped then.  This means that I was actually shorting myself of oxygen.  What I mistook for a relaxed meditative state was actually a lethargic, hypoxic state where I was taking in too much air and not letting it all back out.  The Easterners had it right.  It’s not about TAKING a breath, it’s about finishing a breath, completing the exhale. That’s what get’s the oxygen to the bloodstream and brain.

Yes, the deep breath feels relaxing to many, and probably for several reasons:  1. That is what we are told to do when stressed, so we expect it to help.  2. It takes our awareness inward.  3. When we take deeper breaths, we usually slow our breathing, which slows our heart rate and calms the system.  BUT, if your deep breath is one that actually shorts your oxygen supply, that is definitely not good because it means everything will start to constrict due to loss of oxygen.

SO, if a deep breath isn’t a guarantee of getting more oxygen from your lungs to your bloodstream and brain, then HOW DO YOU KNOW if your breathing is giving you the right amount of oxygen?  There is one way that is scientifically accurate and one way that is a best guess.  The sure way is the use of a capnometer (the more scientific oriented method is to use a capnometer which measures carbon dioxide such as the “CapnoTrainer” which also measures Heart Rate Variability, HRV).  The best guess is not by pulse ox (oximeter) but by noticing the symptoms that accompany lowered ETCO₂ and lowered oxygen, like feeling light-headed or short of breath (see symptom checklist on our website

When I first jogged regularly,  around the same time I started meditation and yoga, I wore one of the first heart rate monitors and was baffled by how much my heart rate was jumping around.  I wasn’t sure whether the there was something wrong with the heart rate monitor or me, so I checked both out.  For myself, I found I had a few PVCs, which can be very dangerous and cause sudden heart attacks. I overcame those working with breathing and heart rate monitoring and exercise moderation.  Only later did I find out that our heart rate is supposed to vary rhythmically, both at rest and while being active. For example, when at rest, when we breathe in our heart rate (HR) increases and when we breathe out it decreases.   How much it varies is called HRV. The least healthy is to have a steady or irregular heart rate, with not much rhythmic variability.  In fact regularly low HRV is a predictor of all causes of death and a correlate of negative emotions and poor health.  And the converse is true also—greater HRV is a correlate of good cardiovascular health and of more positive emotional states, better cognitive and physical performance, greater intuition, and much more.  For more.

Now, I am happy to BreatheHeartfully as we go into the Art and Science of Better Breathing and Greater Heart Rate Variability for your health and enjoyment and for your very BEST. My motto is OPT for the BEST, my acronym for: Optimal Performance Training for the Body, Emotions, Spirit, & Thoughts.

I look forward to being of help and service. Well come and see our programs, biofeedback instruments, trainings, presentation and resources.

Till we connect again,

Bob Whitehouse, EdD  7/19/2010

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The Earth seen from Apollo 17 150x150 BREATHE she says...“BREATHE” she says in a very succinct commanding voice. However, what was never mentioned; was what was really meant and how? She was talking to me, jack. It was a Saturday morning September 1987 in Silver Spring Maryland I had just been dropped off by my friend Dawn and I was knocking on the door of a Medical Intuitive RN,that I had met the previous year, for an impromptu session. She opens the door and says: Oh it is you! I wasn’t expecting you so soon, I had just been thinking about taking clients on a per need basis and you might as well be the first one. This incidence led me on this exploration as to the “How” and “What” seems to be the nature of breathing and many other topics for over the past 30 some years.
Welcome to our dialogue blog (Bob and I). My questions are what are we creating together by our converstations? And what is worth your while? Because? and how are we being effective at helping you find your needs, concerns, thrivings?
What have I been discovering will more then likely go beyond just the issues of breathing, it seems that the world and universe are entangled into networks of complex adapting systems. Fortunately, it has brought me to be more conscious of my environment to become ever more aware that we (humankind) are intricately more connected to our environment with the gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide, microbes and minerals, planeteray cycles, solar flairs, galactic and universal phenomena. This is known as “Gaia Theory” as described James Lovelock, an atmospheric scientist.The state of the world is being affected by but not limited to the release of carbon dioxide from: cars, cows and coal, the ”3 C’s”, into our atmosphere and our oceans, acidifying our environment and ultimatelychanging the conditions by which we live on the planet. The other side of the coin is that we human beings are dependent on carbon dioxide to help release oxygen to the tissues in our body by slightly acidifying the blood and getting the red blood cells to release the oxygen (Bohr effect). Who would have thought that the main driver for breathing would becarbon dioxide instead of oxygen, somewhere in the base of the brain? Better yet, that this breathing reflex pattern has the capacity for learning and that cells are inherently cognate as physicist Frijof Capra suggests in his book the “Web of Life”.

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Ok, what do you or I or anyone else mean by: “Breathing”? of course some these definitions will be incomplete and this is a start of a conversation. Since, I don’t know about you and your understanding you might have to let us know what perspectives you have. Here a couple of ideas; that breathing may be a behavior that facilitates optimal respiration, which, in turn is responsible for the regulation of metabolism (anabolism and catabolism) and for the regulation acid-base physiology. As a behavior, it can serve many different goals such: talking, singing, whistling, coughing, increase or decrease the activities of daily living, sleeping, relaxation, meditation, sports, modulation of emotions, or even creating dissociative states to help adapt with traumas when the nervous system is strained. Respiration has to do with gas exchange. So, external respiration has to do wih the mechanics of moving gases in and out of the lungs,which is what most people in field teach, while internal respiration is about moving these gases from the lungs to the cells or visa versa and cellular respiration is the utilization of oxygen by the mitochondria in the cell to create energy and or to break it down releasing carbon, water, and ATP (adenosine triphosphate energy molecule) among some of the molecules.
In the words of Andrew Weil MD; “If I had only one thing to teach, I would teach breathing”. Ultimately, it seems to me, we might be needing to learn to play the various melodies of good chemistry both in our bodies and in our environment to adapt more harmoniously with our ever changing living conditions. The objective here: is to invite you to come, discover,and dialogue ways to connect the ideas, until we independently or together discover creative effective insights that lead to new possible behaviors. In order to participate in a fuller and more competent operation on our planet: “Spaceship Earth”.

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Here is a little bit of an appreciative inquiry!

Have you ever breathed really well?

How would you know? and what criteria are you using?

what do you believe is possible for you?

John Kelly RN

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